....Whether you wear pants or a skirt to Church, that is.
I did not realize until this morning that there has been a social-media-mobilized effort to make this Sunday "Wear Your Pants to Church Day".
My husband made a passing comment about it over breakfast. I guess he's been seeing a lot about it on Facebook. One of the few benefits of his having a large base of weirdo, lefty girlfriends from his freshman year is that he is in the loop on things like this. I shrugged it off, dismissing it as just another attention-grabbing stunt stirred on by someone like Joanna Brooks, an outspoken feminist who claims to represent women of the LDS faith, while her beliefs and experiences obviously indicate that she does not understand the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But it got me curious. So, when I put Natalie down for a nap, I started to do a little research. And I was right. Not Brooks, but a woman named Stephanie Lauritzen, and her organization "All Enlisted". She is encouraging women to wear pants to church this Sunday in order to protest gender inequality. The planned event has received a lot of attention, with the search results of "Mormons, pants" yielding 5 million hits and growing. Lauritzen perceives that women aren't equal in the Mormon Church, and that her opportunities in the church are limited because of her gender. In one interview, she expresses her desire to give priesthood blessings to her children when they are sick. The group All Enlisted expects that this pants protest will be just one of many to come that will target different aspects of "cultural, structural, and even doctrinal inequality that persists in the Latter Day Saints Church."
As a feminist and a Mormon, this makes me gag. Seriously? Why do women like this have to be the ones who rise to the top and receive attention from the media? They give us a bad image and, quite honestly, confuse and misinform a lot of non-Mormons about what we believe and experience. While, of course, it's fine to wear pants to church, Stephanie Lauritzen is using publicity about the pants issue to share her opinions about issues that actually do matter. It irritates me because it seems that she loves the culture of the Mormon Church while wanting to do her own thing, support her own principles, despite their not being in line with LDS teachings. I understand that there are feminists in the church who do feel hurt and offended and I welcome dialogue and efforts to increase awareness and understanding. Sure, lets heal broken hearts and mend deep wounds. But come on, do such opportunities always have to have a woman like this at the heart of it all?
First, if somebody disagrees with the core doctrine of a church, they should not be considered to representative of that church. That is, in fact, apostasy.
I am not saying that it's wrong to question the teachings of the Mormon, or any other, faith. That's the whole search, ponder, and pray idea- you take your questions to the Lord and he will help you to know for yourself whether something is right. If you take this approach, it is completely possible to reconcile feminist principles with the teachings of the LDS church, patriarchal as it may be.
I have belonged to a number of different LDS congregations throughout my different moves around the country. And I have had some very different experiences in each one. But never, EVER, have I felt any gender discrimination. I can see how one without a full understanding of the gospel would have problems with men having to "supervise" all church activity. I, for one, feel empowered that the Lord would want his power, the priesthood, to be available to operate in any scenario, be it girls' camp or a Relief Society craft night. By the way, He is the one who decided that the priesthood should be operated through the brethren of the church- if you think that you know better than God, then you've got bigger problems than your feminist hurt. I understand how some can be offended by unrighteous actions by individual priesthood holders. Let's face it: some men are jerks, or at least do idiotic, self-righteous and sometimes downright mean things. But when acting outside of the bounds that the Lord has set, such brethren do not represent Him or His church.
Now, I will admit that I have sensed some gender inequality a few times. Yep, I definitely have. On countless occasions, I have seen and heard women in the Mormon Church absolutely venerated and acclaimed. Through many sermons, classes, scriptural accounts and individual interactions, I have seen sisters glorified and respected and cherished. There is absolutely a gender inequality in the LDS church, and in the kingdom of God- women are raised up and esteemed and infinitely loved and relied upon for the many capacities that they have that men generally do not. I never see that kind of attention given to the men.
Here comes the tricky part.
This whole wear-pants movement has sparked a lot of reaction from both sides of the issue. Lots of "you go, girl”, sprouting from non-Mormons who see their fellow women taking control and asserting themselves in an oppressive organization, as well as from under informed Mormons who don't realize that the promoter of this event is inadvertently attacking their very church. I have read a lot of articles that claim that this is not a protest against gender inequality, but a statement about inclusion and rejecting social expectations to focus more on what the Lord really cares about. And I was glad to read such things. I hope that most supporters will embrace this as the real intent of the pants-clad parade this Sunday. Like I mentioned, I welcome such dialogue. I am grateful for the increasing awareness.
Then we've got the haters on the other side. This is where it gets juicy. Blogs and articles have received hundreds of responses condemning this event as well as people's feelings and opinions behind it. There were a lot of blatant insults. "People like you and others in your church are pretty PATHETIC." Then, there was a lot of insensitivity, people belittling women who express vulnerability, striking them down as oversensitive and insecure. "I wonder what your life experience has been that has scarred you so much"; "People will probably not notice anyway. They have too many real concerns to take care of." There were a lot of men making stupid comments. "Can I wear a dress?" "Can we stop wearing ties as a symbol of breaking from our social constraint?" Then there was a lot of ignorance and self-righteousness. "Why not just wear a garbage bag to church?" In response to one earnest but humble post, a woman angrily condemned all pants-wearing church-goers as Sabbath disturbers who serve Satan. One man argued against pants-wearing, urging women to "keep their covenants". I must have missed that. When did wearing skirts and dresses become requisite to eternal salvation? Even the LDS church has responded with the statement: "Attending Church is about worship and learning to be followers of Jesus Christ. Generally Church members are encouraged to wear their best clothing as a sign of respect for the Savior, but we don't counsel people beyond that."
It was through reading these statements that I started to feel a little bit of pity for the cause. I mean, so many reactions from people both within and outside of the Mormon Church were so nasty towards a number of women who jumped on this bandwagon, that I felt like wearing pants just to stick it to the opposition. Not as a feminist statement, but as a counter-anti-feminist statement. Then I realized that my choice of dress might communicate that I support Stephanie Lauritzen, and the aims of All Enlisted. And I don't. I support those who are choosing to wear pants for good and worthy reasons, but I have a feeling that drawing attention to this whole movement is just solidifying the misconception that gender discrimination is a real, mainstream problem in the LDS Church. In reality, women who feel discriminated against within the church are a severe minority. And I feel quite sorry for them. I just wish they would seek greater knowledge and understanding, perhaps even turn to God for reconciliation, rather than publicizing their own solutions to imagined problems and stirring up contention.
I’ll be wearing a skirt on Sunday. I certainly won’t judge others who choose to wear pants, especially since we have several sisters in our congregation who always wear pants to church. And it’s no big deal. I might wear pants some time if I want to; it would be more practical, as we work in nursery. But I don’t want to be involved with this Stephanie Lauritzen and her movement. Afterall, I’ve agreed not to “support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”.